January Numbers See 98.5 Still Riding High

Thanks to Chad Finn (on vacation this week, but he still posted this to his blog) we have the Arbitron radio numbers from January.

The trend continues.

Morning drive: Toucher and Rich: 12.0 share. Dennis and Callahan: 8.6.

Midday: Gresh and Zo, 11.8; Mut and Merloni, 6.0.

Afternoon drive: Felger and Mazz, 11.0; The Big Show, 7.3.

Chad doesn’t mention whether this includes the Providence numbers for WEEI. (But honestly, how much difference could they make here?) Is this WEEI AM and FM against 98.5? or just one? Update: Chad checked in with me to clarify that the WEEI numbers are for both 850 and 93.7, Arbitron combines them as one. The numbers do not include Providence, but as I said, it’s not going to make much difference here.

I’m just wondering so we’ll know when can we put the FM argument to rest.

Does it mean anything that Felger and Mazz is 98.5’s lowest rated daytime show?

I’d like to go back to when it was announced that 98.5 would be coming on the air, and WEEI management was asked for comment.

From Finn on July 17th, 2009:

On Tuesday, Julie Kahn, vice president and market manager of Entercom New England, told the Globe, “This is the third effort to come after us at ‘EEI. The best content will win.”

I’m not sure it’s really about the best content…

From Don Aucoin on July 15th, 2009:

Jason Wolfe, vice president of AM programming for Entercom New England, which owns WEEI, voiced confidence the station would withstand the challenge. “It doesn’t change what we’re going to do,” Wolfe said. “We’ve dealt with competitive situations before, and we’re fully prepared to deal with it again. . . . We have the largest audience, and we know what it takes to maintain that audience.”

Apparently, they didn’t know what it took…

Thinking About The Patriots Radio Situation

We’ve got a long ways to go until August, when the Patriots will play their first preseason game and debut what is almost certain to be a new broadcast team.

It will be a topic of interest until the official announcement is made. Boston Globe media writer Chad Finn has said that long-time analyst Gino Cappelletti has almost certainly done his last game in the booth. He’s also said that play-by-play man Gil Santos would like to do another season.

The pair has done 28 seasons together, 21 of those consecutively. However, as Finn noted in a December 23rd column, the time has come for changes to be made in the radio booth.

Finn’s column was met with one of two reactions – agreement, or anger. The suggestion that these two broadcasting legends, who have called so many great (and some not-so-great) moments in franchise history, would no longer be on the air, is not an easy one to take. The genuine affection between the two of them is palpable, and almost familial.

It is certainly more noticeable with Cappelletti, as the Patriots AFL legend struggles to keep up and get his thoughts on the game across. Santos has attempted to cover for him, and you could even hear it in pregame talks with Bill Belichick in recent years, that the coach too was making an effort to make things easier for Cappelletti.

As for Santos, he’s still got the great voice, even after 35 seasons of calling Patriots games. No one is going to dispute that. His call of the missed kick by Billy Cundiff to clinch the AFC Championship for the Patriots last month was classic Santos. He still paints a great picture and has the strong voice. However, he sometimes struggles with the action on the field, such as whether a ball is caught or dropped, and which player made the play. I don’t know the situation in the booth – would he benefit from a strong spotter, to assist him with some of these things? I’d like to find out.

Bringing Scott Zolak into the broadcasts this season as the sideline reporter was a very good move. His enthusiasm and ability to see the field as a former player gives him some good insight into what’s happening, and he’s able to convey that. Bringing him into the booth is a no-brainer. I would very much like to see what a Santos/Zolak pairing in the booth sounds like, perhaps with some more help for Santos as well. (Maybe he already has it, and still struggles, which would be very depressing.)

But how long could that pairing go? It seems like Santos might have one season left. Then what? The rumor over the last few years was always Gary Tanguay as Santos’ successor, some have even suggested that the carrot of that role is why he didn’t kick up a bigger fuss when he was replaced by Andy Gresh alongside Zolak on the 98.5 mid-day show.

I’ve heard Tanguay do Celtics games from time to time, while his voice is strong and prototypical for a sports announcer, honestly, I don’t want him doing Patriots games. Tanguay in the role may not be a foregone conclusion, however. This season momentum seemed to be picking up for John Rooke, ( @jrooke0722 ) who currently does the PA work at Gillette Stadium for the Patriots and Revolution and is a veteran play-by-play announcer and radio broadcaster.

Some have asked about Sean McDonough. While the former Red Sox voice has the pedigree and name recognition to be a strong candidate, he’s currently very busy with ESPN, being the voice of the Monday Night Baseball telecasts, and doing a ton of college football and basketball as well. I’m not sure what the logistics could be with bringing him in, but it seems a longshot at best.

With Zolak going to the booth, it would seem that doing that would take him off of the pregame show. Who should replace him there, alongside Tanguay and Gresh and the rest of the cast? I think 98.5 has the perfect candidate in Mike Flynn, who played his college ball at Maine, and had a strong 11-year run with the Baltimore Ravens, finishing up his career in the training camp of the Patriots in 2008. Flynn is very good analyst, oftentimes a voice of reason. He’d be the best fit for that role.

Could Flynn also be used in the sideline reporter role that Zolak had this season? It would depend on whether the Patriots Radio Network wants to keep that position. They may feel that it was just created for Zolak to get him involved with Santos and Cappelletti this season and sort of ease the transition. If they keep the role, I’d like to see Flynn give it a shot.

If you want a real longshot candidate for the play-by-play role in the future,  you could do worse than Flynn’s usual partner on 98.5, Ryan Johnston, @RJVoice who has done some fill-in work on the Boston Bruins radio broadcasts and has very good chemistry with Flynn.

So what we might see for next season is this:

Play-by-play – Gil Santos
Booth Analyst – Scott Zolak
Sideline reporter/analyst – Mike Flynn

Pregame: Gary Tanguay, Andy Gresh, Mike Flynn.

Of course, I’d love an entirely new pregame show, but as Jonathan Kraft apparently loves to have his franchise torn apart on its own flagship station’s airwaves, that’s probably not going to happen.

Depending on how Santos does this season, could he do more? Perhaps Zolak lifts him up a bit and he can get another couple years in? That’s hard to say. I wouldn’t mind it, given the likely alternatives at this point. As far as I’m concerned, Santos can have the job as long as he can keep doing it. Unfortunately, that day is likely to come sooner, rather than later.

Change isn’t always easy, but sometimes it just has to happen.

WEEI Has Zero Credibility on Jeremy Lin/ESPN Issue

Station Shows Mind-blowing Lack of Self-Awareness

The incident over the weekend in which an ESPN.com editor was fired for using the headline “Chink in the Armor” on a story about the New York Knicks and sensation Jeremy Lin losing their first game since Lin became a starter has been a hot topic everywhere this week.

Naturally the topic has been discussed on WEEI, and while the hosts discussing the issues do manage some thoughtful commentary, it is completely invalidated by the embarrassing lack of self-awareness or just plain willful ignorance the station has shown in ignoring their own history in the same area.

Yesterday, Glenn Ordway was talking about the subject, and how he believes that Anthony Federico should not have been fired, and that media outlets and society in general are too quick to just fire or suspend people when mistakes are made. (I tend to agree.)

Ordway argued that instead of firing or suspending that the time should be taken for the topic to be discussed, and thus educate people on why such things are offensive, and perhaps all could benefit and heal from the lessons learned. Sounds good.

Then Ordway presented his example. He cited when Bob Ryan was suspended from the Boston Globe for a month in 2003 for saying in a discussion about the self-promoting ways of Joumana Kidd, (which included using her son as a TV prop) that someone needed to “smack her.” Ordway opined Ryan was not advocating domestic violence (again, I agree) and that  instead of being suspended and silenced on the matter, that Ryan should have been given the opportunity to explain himself, perhaps in a column, and that dialogue should’ve been opened on the topic, and that discussing the matter would help in healing.

All sounds perfectly reasonable. But why choose to criticize the Globe for its handling of the matter, and ignore his own employer’s handling of a matter that much more closely resembles the Lin matter because it was tied to race? I’m speaking of course, about the Metco incident in which John Dennis and Gerry Callahan were each suspended for two weeks later in 2003, (so after the Ryan incident) for a racially insensitive comment.

At the time of the incident, Ordway and WEEI would not discuss the matter at all. It became a running joke that Ordway would always decline to talk about it because he claimed he hadn’t heard the tapes of the incident, and in fact that the tapes had been “lost.”

So apparently the Globe should’ve allowed the Ryan incident to be discussed and dialogue opened on the matter, but not when WEEI hosts made insensitive comments?In the time that I listened yesterday, Metco was not brought up at all. Perhaps it was, and I didn’t hear it, but in the time I listened, it was not brought up, so it certainly was not a significant part of the discussion.

It says a couple of things about Ordway, either he’s protecting his WEEI colleagues (likely) or he doesn’t put it in the same category as the Federico and Ryan incidents. That too can go two ways; does Ordway believe that what D&C said was not intentionally insensitive? Or does he believe it WAS intentional, but not insensitive?

Either way, to completely ignore an incident that occurred on your own airwaves and instead mention something from another media outlet, is completely disingenuous.

I listened to some of Dennis and Callahan this morning, and their commentary on the matter. They referenced the ESPN Ombudsman column from Poynter, and some of the comments from Stephen A. Smith on the matter (who was actually very good) and generally went with the view that Federico as well as Max Bretos and Spero Dedes, who also used the term, all did so without any malicious racial intentions whatsoever. Their conclusion seems to be basically that this is another example of the politically correct world gone mad. (So those who used the term are the persecuted victims here.)

Even when a caller who claimed to be Asian-American attempted to explain that the term, no matter how it was used was offensive to him, even though he believed it not to be used in an intentionally malicious manner by any of them. He added though, that the people involved should not have been fired, but reprimanded.

Dennis and Callahan basically both invalidated the feelings of the caller and anyone who could claim to be offended by the matter. They insist that no one would ever intentionally use that phrase referencing someone with an Asian background in a racist manner. That it would just be stupid to do so. Which is true. However, what the caller, and other callers tried to explain, (unsuccessfully to D&C) is that even if it the phrase was not racially motivated, it was, at the very least, being used as a double entendre, which means race entered into it, perhaps without actually realizing that it was as offensive as it was.

Intentional or not, using the phrase in the manner in which it was, to reference Jeremy Lin, is not acceptable.

Once again, I did not hear the Metco incident brought up at all, except indirectly by a caller, who stated that he felt that D&C’s stance on this matter was not surprising at all, he then attempted to bring up Metco, and Callahan loudly shouted over him to obfuscate the caller so that he wasn’t heard at all, and then called it a “cheap shot.”

How in the world was it a “cheap shot” to bring up an incident which was exactly relevant to the discussion they were having at that moment, and involved the very hosts of the show?

When you think about Dennis’ comments after the Metco incident (quoted in the article linked above), you can see why the incident is especially relevant. He called it “the single stupidest thing I’ve ever said in 26 years of broadcasting in Boston.”

“I’ve heard people who know nothing about me evaluate my character, analyze my heart, dissect my brain, and pronounce me a lost and despicable soul,” Dennis wrote. “I understand their anger, and, frankly, I deserve much of what I’m getting.”

So why is it so hard for them to understand why Asian people would be angry over the comments made about Lin? D&C would’ve been better served trying to explain how “the single stupidest thing” can slip out at the worst time, but that the anger generated is still understandable and deserved.

Instead, they did their best to hide from the incident and shout over a caller who attempted to introduce it into the discussion.

This gives them, and the entire station, zero credibility when discussing how the Jeremy Lin incident was handled by ESPN.